Nomological Net

Stray thoughts from here and there. The occasional concern for construct validity. No more logic. Fish.


faults in the clouds of delusion

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Swing vote

WBGO, one of the best online sources for streaming jazz (and also for just plain listening if you're in the NYC area), is carrying out a poll. Who are your favorite jazz musicians? Here's the chance to weigh in.

It took me forever to decide on a few of my picks. Tenor sax: Trane? The Colossus? Wayne Shorter? I went with Trane. This was a few days ago -- today I see he's got a huge lead over #2, Stan Getz. Trumpet was easier for me -- Miles over Pops and Dizzy, but now I find Maynard Ferguson is leading him by a solid forty points. WTF? Piano I plumped for Herbie. No two ways about it for me, although I knew that he wouldn't be a popular winner. And indeed, it's Oscar Peterson way out in front -- Ray Charles in his autobiography can't praise the man too highly, so in a sense I can see how he'd be ahead of Thelonious and Bill Evans. Alto sax is Bird all the way, for me and the masses so that's cool. Bass was a big toughie for me -- Mingus or Jaco? (Kai wasn't on the list :-) I went with Mingus partly because I'm a leetle more inclined towards his compositions, and perhaps that's unfair. Turns out Ray Brown is at the top right now, followed by Ron Carter and then Mingus. Drums for me was Tony Williams all the way but I recognized that some of the bigger names would win out, and indeed he trails behind Buddy Rich, Art Blakey, Max Roach, and Elvin Jones, a brush ahead of Jack DeJohnette.

The large ensemble section currently has a really close three-way race between the Basie, Ellington, and Stan Kenton orchestras. I'm guessing this has been marginally inspired by the recent Ray Sings Basie Swings release. For me there's no musical machine like the Ellington orchestra -- and of course that's inextricably tied up with the compositional genius of the man himself. Wynton Marsalis who for all his faults did a magnificent job on the Ken Burns Jazz series, put it ever so well: Late in the evening, when you're all alone and there's no one with you, that's when the Duke is there. Paraphrasing from memory, but that's about the gist of it. No one but the Duke -- can see right through you.

On guitar I went with Stanley Jordan, who's way down the list as I expected. Soprano sax was the same toss-up as before, but again I went with Trane for My Favorite Things. Oh well.

There were a few other categories as well, but I'm not so much into those so I'm not talking about them right now. You have to vote in all categories, so I did anyway. Feel free to do so if you think there's some injustice that needs correcting.

How long shall they kill our prophets
While we stand around and look

Okay, not quite. But vote anyway. And if you ever want to stream some really good music especially between midnight and 6 am NYC time, this is the place to go.


And with that it's a hundred posts now. So many electrons killed. And for what? For a little bit of distraction. There's more to life than a little entertainment, you know. Don't you know that?

And here ya are, and it's a beautiful day. Well, I just don't understand it.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

Some of the omissions are remarkable.

Just ten names in baritone sax, and no Harry Carney. Just five names in violin, and no Joe Venuti or Jean-Luc Ponty. In guitar, no Bill Frisell or Kurt Rosenwinkel -- two of the best contemporary guitarists, I'd have said -- or John McLaughlin.

Meanwhile, there are two Kenny Barrons on piano, with one vote each.

OK, in all these cases my vote went to someone else. But still. I expected better from WBGO.

Anyway, the whole exercise seems unfair -- you can't compare Satch, Dizzy, Miles or Duke, Monk, Brubeck to one another, let alone to modern players.

11/15/2006 7:44 PM  
Blogger MockTurtle said...

Congratulations on the century. Wish I could make some semi-intelligent observation on all that jazz, but I will not even try.

11/15/2006 9:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Chin up. :)

As Rahul says. Nevertheless, I had a go at it. Didnt know 80% of the names in most categories, so I ended up choosing among the ones I did know. Agreed with you on Miles, Tony Williams, Bird, Trane. Differed on Zawinul for piano (cant help thinking he was way ahead of the curve on his instrument but even without that to his credit, his sonic imagination is something to just marvel at - I'd have loved to see him play with the Dead), and Shorter on soprano sax (just for those short passages on In A Silent Way).

Big up for Maynard Ferguson....LOL!

11/15/2006 10:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Just noticed - no Charlie Christian in guitar, where they found space for 30+ others. Good grief. Most people would have put him as one of the founders of jazz guitar (with Django -- at least he hasn't been forgotten).

11/16/2006 1:01 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

i agree that there are some crazy omissions. johnny mac seemed the most egregious to me. it's not a perfect list.

but i don't think i'd call the exercise "unfair". after all, it's not about choosing the "best" on any given instrument, it's about choosing your favorite. so for instance on drums i'd probably pick brian blade second to tony williams -- just because i've seen him perform and he's been absolutely mesmerizing.

thanks man. *takes fresh guard*. :-p don't worry about intelligent observations - just go listen. (speaking of which i've been intending to watch your daraku clip with full attention but not gotten round to it yet. guess i need a crisis at work.)

oh ya, zawinul with the dead would have been a dream explosion (in borat terms). shorter on soprano sax is also good. also bechet. meaning "favorite" varies with time of day and mood and inclination. (still maintain nothing like ellington for 2 am, though.)

i bet maynard ferguson's fan club is rigging it. like all those desis that get together and push amitabh bacchan and mahatma gandhi on the bbc polls.

11/16/2006 1:43 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tr - quoth the webpage: This is your chance to weigh in on what you think is the best in jazz.

But even if it's just "favourite" without quality judgements, I don't see how one can realistically say "I like Sidney Bechet more than Branford Marsalis" (or vice versa). Or even Charlie Parker vs Paul Desmond, who were near-contemporaries. They're just too different -- there's no basis for comparison.

Of course, one can easily say "I like Sidney Bechet better than Kenny G". But comparing two good musicians from different eras, or with different styles, is another matter.

11/16/2006 2:01 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

okay they're screwed up in their copy. waddaheck, yaknow? when you have to choose between noncomparable alternatives you abstract up to higher levels, such as "who do i like to listen to more". and at times that may beocme "who would i prefer to listen to in general". or even "right now". that's okay. it's all good. i'm sure bird wouldn't mind if you didn't feel like an ornithology once in a while.

11/16/2006 2:11 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

btw, not sure if it's coincidence or not, but right now i'm listening to an ellington box set that i picked up in berkeley when we all visited there for that eventful txgiving that year.

11/16/2006 2:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tr - i'm sure bird wouldn't mind if you didn't feel like an ornithology once in a while.

That's just what I mean. If the poll measured what most people like to listen to most of the time, Kenny G would win the soprano sax section. So I don't think that's what they meant. The "what you think is the best" wasn't unintentional.

Funny moment at Madhav Chari's workshop the other day: he was encouraging people to listen to jazz. One of them said "can you suggest anything bouncy, you know, lively?" Madhav said "like how do you mean? What sort of stuff do you listen to?" The guy said "well, I like Yanni". "Um, er, well, I don't think you'll find many jazz pianists that sound like Yanni..."

Funny you should mention the txgiving. Our good hostess of that time will be here next week.

11/16/2006 2:40 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

HAHAHAHAHA! yanni!!!

about the poll -- i'd say naah. most yanni / kenny g listeners wouldn't have heard of wbgo. they're talking to the in crowd.

please give our good hostess bumps. she's been sorely delinquent with her blogging. not to mention the email she owes us all from nearly 8 years ago.

11/16/2006 2:48 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

in fact i think most kenny g listeners wouldn't have heard of soprano sax.

11/16/2006 2:50 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

She blogs? Didn't know. Anyway -- will convey message.

Yeah, this crowd wouldn't vote for Yanni or KennyG. Still -- Pat Metheny at No.2 guitarist or Michael Brecker at No. 4 tenor sound a bit odd. (And, as you say, Maynard Ferguson.) They're very good and all, but look at the names below them.

11/16/2006 3:11 AM  
Anonymous S said...

re: hostess -- bet she forgot to mention THE BIG NEWS. she just got a second-authored paper accepted at "Nature". all this modesty, i tell you. double bumps, please. on the rocks.

11/16/2006 5:07 AM  
Blogger Falstaff said...

Fun. I went with a more or less contrarian strategy - picking people who aren't necessarily my favourites, but who I have a soft spot for and who could really use the votes. So Lester Young over 'Trane, Wynton Marsalis over Miles and Satchmo, Art Tatum over Monk, Nina Simone over Ella, I think the Bird is actually the only person I picked who's on top of his category (though hopefully Ellington and Co. will get there; and I suppose Blakey could make it as well). I have to say I'm surprised by Ferguson, and by Sinatra.

11/16/2006 12:35 PM  
Blogger Arthur Quiller Couch said...

Smoking shit, I'm agreeing with Falstaff here! Wynton Marsalis it is.

And does Stephane Grappelli qualify for your hi-hi list?

11/16/2006 6:26 PM  
Anonymous Ph said...

Oooh tough choices. I started off rather confidently and then realized that I was spending way too much time on this . So, I had to give up half way. Would be criminal almost to pick one over the other in some categories. :(

11/16/2006 10:55 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

rahul, s:
yes, double bumps, for sure.

wynton marsalis? no way!
sinatra is explained by the IMMENSE fan following he has among people who were teenyboppers in 1950. that and the mafia.

go check the list, dood. your man's leading the violin section, if that's where you'd like to see him.
and see above re: wynton m.

no! how could you give up?! it's not criminal to state a favorite. no one's going to hold you to it or anything -- heck it's not *marriage*, you know :-)

11/17/2006 1:01 AM  
Blogger km said...

They also forgot rishi kapoor on trumpet/sax/drums/guitar/violin.

/decal-carryin' member of wbgo since 1998:)

11/17/2006 5:01 AM  
Anonymous Ph said...

LOL, you tempt me to say things I probably shouldn't. :)

11/17/2006 6:22 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

i'm not surprised on either count :-D

go ahead, make my day. (that's amooo-rayyy. and anonymiiii-tayyy.)

11/17/2006 8:30 AM  
Blogger kundalini said...

km - its really funny to read your comment this morning - i was at a "silk" fusion concert last night and guess who was bouncing right next to me? :)

tr - am totally unqualified for this post (too). :)

11/17/2006 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

tr, s - will convey virtual bumps. Spouse isn't in condition to assist with real ones...

aqc - Grappelli is up on my list of all-time greats. Not just on violin but on any instrument. (How many jazz violinists were there anyway? Ray Nance didn't play violin most of the time, Regina Carter is brilliant but a bit too recent to judge... and I'm ambivalent about Ponty.)

It seems to me swing musicians like Grappelli tend to be underrated, especially if they continued into the bebop era.

11/17/2006 1:23 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

hmm... dunno, a? ;-)

i agree about carter and definitely ponty (much too pop for me). can you explain what you meant by that comment about swing musicians continuing into bop? who else?

11/18/2006 2:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well, Louis Armstrong is at No. 3, I'd call that underrated for him... Django's below Pat Metheny, and look where Coleman Hawkins is (and he actually played bebop, unlike the others).

11/18/2006 1:55 PM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

i agree armstrong's under-rated -- he's probably the single greatest jazz musician ever. but i wouldn't say he was a swing player -- he went from dixieland to pop. i also agree with your calls on django and hawk, but for your original contention to hold true you'd have to have contemporaries of theirs who hadn't played through the bebop era to be rated higher than them, and across the board at that. right? i'd say part of it is just a bias towards more recent players -- recency as opposed to style.

11/18/2006 5:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I meant swing as in traditional, not necessarily big-band 1930s stuff. The thing Ellington talks of in "It don't mean a thing." Louis did that, he's definitely post-Dixieland (he's largely responsible for there being a post-Dixieland...) I'm not sure what the word for 20s-jazz is.

I'm not sure it's an age thing -- Charlie Parker died in 1955 and he's on top. Age ought to be a plus, you can appreciate them better. Maybe it's a recording-technology thing: hi-fi, long-length recordings started to happen only in the late 1940s.

11/19/2006 1:08 AM  
Blogger Tabula Rasa said...

agree on both counts. adding to the second one, i remember reading somewhere that at his prime (in the 30s) lester young was beyond unbelievable when he stretched out. however the recording technology did not allow anything more than 3 minutes, so what we hear is a greatly circumscribed version. (somewhat like approximating the dead with "skeletons in the closet").

much luckier that the beboppers were able to survive the recording ban in the 40s. that would have been a tragedy.

11/20/2006 11:06 AM  

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